A constitutional amendment ending the requirement voters have an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot was given final approval in the state Assembly on Tuesday along with a provision allowing New Yorkers to register to vote on Election Day.
The amendments will go before voters in November for final consideration before they can be added to the state's constitution.
Absentee balloting in New York sharply increased last year during the COVID-19 pandemic after officials in essence ended the no-excuse requirement for voters, who could request a ballot if they were concerned they could contract the virus.
New York's constitution lists only a narrow set of stipulations for voters to apply for and receive an absentee ballot in the days before Election Day.
“The Assembly Majority is committed to making it easier for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “These bills will increase accessibility to the polls and continue some of the safety precautions we began taking during the pandemic. As we see states roll back access to voting, New York will fight to make sure every eligible voter is able to have their voice heard.”
Another amendment approved by the Assembly on Tuesday allows voters to register and vote on Election Day. Both amendments are long-sought goals for good-government advocates, who have hoped the changes will increase voter participation and access at the polls.
“Voting is an integral part of ensuring a functioning democracy, and part of our civic duty as Americans,” said Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, the chair of the chamber's Election Committee. “The Assembly Majority will continue working to ensure every eligible voter has access to the ballot – whether in person or by absentee ballot – and is able to have their voice heard.”
Lawmakers on Tuesday also approved measures that would allow absentee ballots to be requested electronically and allow for Election Day to be the last day an absentee ballot can be postmarked in order to be consistent with hand-delivered ballot deadlines.